Friday, 6 November 2015

Madalynn Scarf

As I mentioned in my Cozy Cat amigurumi post, I recently completed a pretty big scarf project. Big in terms of both 'amount of knitting' and 'size of scarf' – this finished scarf is six feet long! I used the pattern Madalynn, and since I wanted it to be extra soft and nice I used Wendy Merino DK in claret and silver. I made this scarf for my boyfriend Allan, who is always an appreciative scarf recipient, and in contrast to the last scarf I made him we decided that this one should not be an infinity scarf – infinity scarves are nice, but there's not as much room for vital scarf-adjustment with them. By adding another section of the cross stitch pattern on after the end of the stripes section (rather than finishing the scarf and joining it into a loop), I made the scarf nice and long and most importantly able to be wrapped around as many or as few times as Allan likes! A really long scarf is just the best.

This was my first time using double-pointed needles and I really struggled at first. Luckily, I already have experience with stranded colourwork, so I wasn't learning two new skills at once, and the more I did it the faster I got at it :) The one thing I'm really (really, really) annoyed about in this scarf is that you can see in the stripes section there are a few little mistakes, and I have no idea what caused them. At no point did I change the way I was knitting, or drop a stitch, and in many cases I went back several rows with a crochet hook to make sure everything was in the correct order, but I COULD NOT get it to sit right! It's so frustrating because in a repetitive pattern like stripes, it's super visible; even one stitch slightly looser than another catches the eye immediately. It's also frustrating because I've never had this problem before and I don't know what caused it, but I am assuming it's related to the DPNs. Luckily it's in the middle of the scarf, that will mostly be hidden when worn, but boy it drives me crazy :(

One last little note about this scarf: this was the first knitting project I actually blocked! I know, I know. I should have been doing it ages ago. Now that I've done it once, I entirely agree. It took days and days to dry (1. wool holds water like crazy! 2. my flat is cold all the time!) but oh my gosh, it totally straightened out any crumply colourwork and made it drape like a dream. The merino wool is super soft and nice, and I hope it keeps Allan's neck nice and warm for the winter :) Here's one final close up shot of the pattern.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Cozy Cat Amigurumi

I recently completed a pretty big scarf project (I'll be posting about it soon!) and the number one thing I do with spare wool is make amigurumi! I didn't have enough of it left to really do anything else (this used all of the red I had) and I was looking for a fun, quick project that would keep me from hoarding the ball or two of wool I had left for like, three years, which is the number two thing I do with spare wool. So here he is, a v. cozy cat who's just as unimpressed with the cold weather as I am :) finished, he's around 12" top to toe, probably closer to 8" sitting. I did this in two nights of work while watching bad horror films and Best of the Worst.

So, confession: I didn't really keep track of what I was doing while I was making this. Like, at all. All of my amigurumi is made up as I go, because once you have the basic shapes down you're just repeating them over and over for each piece that you do. I made a circle for his head, two triangles for the ears, a tear-drop-ish shape for the body, and five long cylinders for his legs and tail. The scarf is a long rectangle, and the hat is an open circle with an extra layer of treble crochet folded up to make the rim. Topped off with the world's laziest pompom (made on my fingers, while sitting in bed). Voila! I embroidered the eyes and mouth on with a tapestry needle and black yarn I've had around for years that I only use for amigurumi faces -- remember my friendly ghost pattern from last October? Same stuff! I then stuffed it with polyester filling that again, I've had around for years. That's what I like so much about amigurumi; I never have to buy new supplies to do it!

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Watercolours, pt. 2

 ...a.k.a., guess who got a scanner?! A.k.a., guess who is still learning to use her new scanner?! Scanner lesson 1: if you don't want to take the paper off the ring binding, the pictures are going to be a bit blurry. So please forgive the blurry edges! The pictures in this post are roughly chronological (although I haven't included all the doodling I've done or the failures, haha), so this blueberry is the first thing I painted. I tried to follow a tutorial picture I found on a Chinese Pinterest-type site, but, well. It wasn't as easy as it looked. I had to use white watercolour in this too, because I totally lost the white. At least I learned here that a) my paper buckles and b) I am not comfortable with wet-into-wet! The next thing I painted was this pomegranate. I did this with a random reference from Google images and I actually really like how it came out! I impressed myself with this one. The peach I did a while later, and I'm not as happy with it, but at least the colours are quite pretty.

This one I painted with the help of this tutorial from Inkstruck Studio. I think this one is quite pretty too! I've been realising lately that Alizarin Crimson is basically my favourite colour.

And finally, I just did this one a couple nights ago. It was inspired by a picture of a watercolour grid I found, but I unfortunately don't remember the source anymore. Again, not perfect, but it was a fun exercise! I've been really enjoying watercolour and I think I am slowly getting better at, a little bit at a time.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Another roses and pearls ribbon embroidery

The embroidery so nice she made it twice! Well, kind of. It's actually slightly different from the last Roses and Pearls embroidery I did -- I didn't use anything from the kit except the small beads, the hoop is bigger, and the fabric is different. Really the main thing in common is that I was inspired to make another rose wreath ribbon embroidery, since I enjoyed doing the last one so much. I really love making ribbon roses! The ribbon is all pure silk, and I doubled up on the cotton thickness here to give it some body. It was mostly freehanded; the only pattern I used was drawing circles where the large roses would go in air erasable pen and the rest was done on the fly. This one is for sale, here on Etsy!

P.S., my dissertation is all handed in! I'm done! Yay but also oh no, what do I do now?

Friday, 4 September 2015

Read, Reading, Want to Read {5}

It's been a while since my last RRWrR! I have read loads since then, so let's get right to it. Some of these summaries might be a bit spoiler-y, so be warned!

The Shelters of Stone, The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel | 3-5/5
I talked a lot about this series in my last books post, and I should reiterate that these books are goofy as hell, and I love them. I know they aren't for everybody, because they're very repetitive, and the longer they go the more unreasonably perfect Ayla (the main character) becomes, but here I am. LOVE IT. I'm so glad I finally finished the final book in the series; this was the main reason I re-read them all! In The Shelters of Stone, Ayla meets Jondalar's people, and is officially mated to him, despite some consternation from the tribe. In The Land of Painted Caves, Ayla becomes a religious leader, and there's some drama about Jondalar being quite a big jerk. This last one was pretty disappointing though, and if I took these books seriously I would be really annoyed by it. A solid 30% of the book was descriptions of cave paintings, and the plot was mainly going from cave to cave. It certainly does what it says on the tin. There is a lot I didn't like about this book, and the 'climax' is one of the most groan-worthy, misunderstanding-of-languages terrible pun-like 'relevation' I've ever read. I'm genuinely getting annoyed now, thinking about it! Once again love these books, did spend some time on an Earth's Children fansite trying to figure out if Auel would be writing any more. So, what can you do.
Native Tongue, by Suzette Haden Elgin | 5/5
Oh, I adored this book. I read it all in one day, I couldn't put it down! The premise of this book is that in the 22nd century, the status of women has been reverted to that of essentially property with the legal rights of children, and women have been barred from public life. There are powerful linguist families who act as the government's liaisons between humans and the alien races who now regularly trade with them, leading to a post-scarcity Earth -- these technological advances combined with the state of women makes the setting almost a dystopia-utopia. The book tells the story of Nazareth Chornyak, an especially gifted linguist woman, and the revolution she becomes a part of. It's a lot of plot to take in, but I've been describing it as a bit like the Handmaid's Tale, with aliens and linguistics. Which are basically three of my favourite things! I have been recommending this book a lot.
The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell | 5/5
I loved this book too! I have been very lucky with book choices this year. This book has a similar premise to The Book of Strange New Things, in that they're both about Christians In Space. A sign of intelligent life is discovered on a distant planet, and a scientific expedition, spearheaded by the Society of Jesus, is sent to investigate. The characters are all wonderfully fleshed out and sympathetic, and I absolutely loved Emilio Sandoz, the main character, a Jesuit priest from the slums of Puerto Rico. The alien species they find on Rakhat are wonderful too, and the society is beautifully fleshed out. There's also some consideration of Christian theology that, as someone who knows almost nothing about any of that, I found really fascinating. I don't really know what else to say about this book, I just loved it.
The Judas Rose, by Suzette Haden Elgin | 3.5/5
You know, I had marked this as 5/5 on Goodreads, but as I've been writing this post I realised that I couldn't remember hardly anything about this book. I clearly enjoyed it, but it isn't nearly as good as Native Tongue. The book is hardly a sequel at all, and more a continuation of the themes raised in the previous book. There is more talk of languages, more talk of aliens, and we learn about a government-wide conspiracy that rather complicates everything a lot. There's a big twist at the end too, which actually works quite well. If I sound rather unenthused here, it's because I truly don't remember much more about this book!
Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood | 5/5
I know I keep saying this, but I loved this book too. I can't believe I haven't read it before! The plot follows the main character, Snowman/Jimmy, in a post-apocalyptic setting, as he recollects his life before and how everything collapsed. Something I really loved about this book is the setting pre-'apocalypse' -- while technically a dystopia, it's unsettlingly similar to the way things are going today, with intense class-based segregation and mega-corporations controlling the government, police force, and the food we eat. There's also mass-extinctions, climate change, and a population fixated on beauty and youth. Sounds pretty familiar, right? Margaret Atwood creates such believable and terrifying scenarios, all beautifully written. I highly recommend this book.
Children of God, by Mary Doria Russell | 3.5/5
This is the sequel to The Sparrow, and unfortunately doesn't quite live up to the original. There were parts of this book that I absolutely loved, and I was very happy with how some of the (being very vague here) issues brought up in the first book were resolved. That being said, there was also a lot of complicated family tree type things that were quite difficult to keep track of, and this book is essentially a story about a war with a sometimes-confusing framing device. I also found the new characters they introduced mostly rather interchangeable, but there were a few exceptions to this that I really enjoyed. I do recommend this as a sequel if you've read the first, but it's not quite as impressive a work, I think.
The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood | 5/5
I liked this book as much as I liked Oryx and Crake but in very different ways. Set in the same universe as Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood isn't a sequel so much as an alternate telling of the same events. The story is told from the perspective of two women, Ren and Toby, both of whom miraculously survived the so-called 'waterless flood'. Margaret Atwood does an excellent job weaving the lives of these two lower-class, 'pleebland' women in with the story line of Oryx and Crake, which deepened my appreciation of the first book even more. And reaaaaally reaffirmed how much of a jerk Jimmy was.

Earthsong, by Suzette Haden Elgin
In Earthsong, the trilogy’s long-awaited finale, the Aliens have abandoned Earth, taking their technologies with them and plunging the planet into economic and ecological disaster. Devastated, the women decide to take their failed Láadan project back underground, desperately seeking guidance from their long-dead foremothers. The women discover an ingenious solution to the problem of human violence and seek to spread their knowledge—but has their final solution come too late?
Dune, by Frank Herbert
Set in the far future amidst a sprawling feudal interstellar empire where planetary dynasties are controlled by noble houses that owe an allegiance to the imperial House Corrino, Dune tells the story of young Paul Atreides (the heir apparent to Duke Leto Atreides and heir of House Atreides) as he and his family accept control of the desert planet Arrakis, the only source of the 'spice' melange, the most important and valuable substance in the cosmos. The story explores the complex, multi-layered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion as the forces of the empire confront each other for control of Arrakis.

Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie
On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Once, she was the Justice of Toren - a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.
MaddAddam, by Margaret Atwood
A man-made plague has swept the earth, but a small group survives, along with the green-eyed Crakers – a gentle species bio-engineered to replace humans. Toby, onetime member of the Gods Gardeners and expert in mushrooms and bees, is still in love with street-smart Zeb, who has an interesting past. The Crakers’ reluctant prophet, Snowman-the-Jimmy, is hallucinating; Amanda is in shock from a Painballer attack; and Ivory Bill yearns for the provocative Swift Fox, who is flirting with Zeb. Meanwhile, giant Pigoons and malevolent Painballers threaten to attack. 
Phew, that was a big one! I've been reading a lot lately, even though I've also been working pretty hard and constantly on my dissertation. (Only a few days to go!!!) What have you been reading lately? Have you read any of these books?

Friday, 21 August 2015


Hello all! Oh my goodness it's been quite a while since I've made a post here, hasn't it? My excuse is that I've been back in California over the summer, and did no embroidery at all while I was there. It was a fantastic trip, and I also got a lot of work on my dissertation done (just a few more weeks until it's due!), but I mainly hung out with my parents, ate a lot of good food, and enjoyed the beautiful LA weather. I did do a lot of knitting, which you'll have seen pictures of if you follow me on Instagram, but I'm going to wait until that's finished to do a post on it. I did pick up a new hobby, though...watercolours!

My friend took me to an art supply warehouse, and helped me choose everything I'd need to get started -- which I am very grateful for, as that store was massive, and I was in way over my head! I picked up the cutest little Winsor and Newton Cotman set, a flat wash brush, a medium round, and a smaller round too. Oh no, I'm sure these all have proper names and I'm totally forgetting them, but just look at the picture above for what I mean! I also got a few various tiny brushes for very fine detail work, and a journal of watercolour paper. Up there is a picture I took of my colour swatches -- it's a great variety of colours, isn't it?! I really love colours! The white isn't really necessary, but I've already been having SO much fun mixing the other paints and getting to know how to handle them, use the right amount of water, etc. It's quite a learning curve and I admit that I had a lot of trouble controlling how much water I used at first, but I think I'm getting better now! I even managed a convincing black the other day.

This is a painting I did based off this Youtube tutorial. This was the first real painting I did, so it's definitely not perfect -- at this point I was still struggling with getting colours as deep as I would like, so the mountains are a bit too translucent! I still think it came out rather well though, and it was a great learning experience.

A wee rose wreath, inspired by this post on how to draw laurel wreaths.

An E I drew, heavily based off an E from an old embroidery alphabet, and painted with watercolours. I'll tell you this, I kind of regret doing this on sketchbook paper, because as you can see there are places where the paper couldn't stand up to the water and then I made it worse by futzing with it! Oh well, I still think it's pretty neat!

Something that's been very motivating for me is that the internet is such a great resource for this; there are so many amazing Youtube channels and blogs with loads of watercolour tutorials, tips, and inspiration. Haha, I guess I am just very excited about my new hobby and can't get enough of it right now! Expect more watercolours here in the future, for sure :)

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Some new embroidery

My friend mentioned that she'd be interested in learning how to embroider, and so last week we finally got together at my flat so I could teach her! I love getting other people excited about crafts, and she took to it very well. I quickly made a Batman pattern for her in Photoshop that she could get started with, and within fifteen minutes she was confidently working away. While she was working on that, I decided that I finally wanted to use the lovely variegated thread that my aunt got me as a present, and stitched up this cheerful hello world! It's strange, I've uploaded this here now and on Etsy too, and the colours seem so much more muted when it's uploaded than when it's just the photograph. Image compression I suppose. It's so bright and pretty in real life, it's a shame I couldn't capture it! This piece is for sale here.

Calling this 'new' is a bit of a stretch...this has been sitting around since March. This is the results of the inspiration from the crafting show I mentioned in this post. I was so inspired by the beautiful colour palettes in the work that was on display; even though I don't usually work with purple at all (although the 'hello world' up there begs to differ!) I really wanted to incorporate them into this mandala. The pattern itself is just one of the results for 'mandala' on Google image search, although I haven't followed it slavishly -- mostly due to wobbly tracing! I had fun using beads on this piece too, but I definitely need more practice making them sit in a straight line. I have watched some Youtube videos since then on beading, so next time it should be better :)

That's it for today! I haven't been doing many new embroideries lately; most of the things I've been stitching have been Etsy sales of pieces I've already posted here. I'll try to get an update on that afghan I've been working on since September up soon -- it's getting big!

Friday, 17 April 2015

Three Japanese embroiderers you should be following

When you're a mostly-monoglot like me (all my best other languages are dead), it can be hard to keep track of what people around the world are doing in your favourite craft. I generally only see embroidery from other English speakers, either on Pinterest, Instragram, or other social media sites -- which is a real shame, because people from other countries can have very different styles from American or British embroiderers! Today I've put together this post of three Japanese embroiderers whose work inspires me, and I can't recommend enough that you follow them too.

The first embroiderer posts her work under the username ironnahappa. Her work is very 'zakka'; yards of gorgeous chain stitch on natural linens, flowers, and whitework. I am absolutely blown away by her work, and also totally inspired by it.

The second account is lavandula36, and is the exact opposite of ironnahappa's work. Instead of very tidy, muted colours, her style is bright and lively, with a more varied stitch texture that catches the eye. I love how she mixes embroidery and illustration in her work.

The final embroiderer for today is cicire2013. I LOVE her little animal brooches; I want to buy a hundred and put them everywhere! She has a very illustrative style too, but her work is lineless, which allows for more detail in the small spaces she's working in. She is my most recent follow, but I am already so inspired by all of her little critters!

So what do you think, have you found any new embroidery faves here? I might do a series on inspiring non-English-speaking embroiderers if I find any other accounts that I'm dying to share.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Roses and Pearls ribbon embroidery kit

Me and my boyfriend's mum went to a fantastic craft show at the Glasgow SECC a couple weekends ago. There were over a hundred stalls of supplies, yarn, needles, felting, beading, tatting, lace-making, weaving, quilting, and pretty much every other craft under the sun.  It was an amazing afternoon, and if you get a chance to go to one of these events I can't recommend it enough! While we were there I not only super inspired by some of the embroidery on display (and I'll be posting the results of that in a few days!), I also met a lovely lady selling the most beautiful embroidery kits I had ever seen.

Lorna Bateman has an online shop and an Etsy where she sells kits, supplies, and all the accoutrement associated with ribbon embroidery. I had never done any ribbon embroidery before, but I've been very keen to try, and when I saw what she was making I knew I had to have a go myself! So I've finished it now, and couldn't be more pleased with how it turned out. It isn't perfect, but for my first try I think it's pretty good! To help you get a sense of the size, the hoop it's mounted in up there is 4". So sweet and tiny! I thought it would be good to do a little review of the kit too, for anyone else interested in ribbon embroidery. So here we go! (*Note: I was not given this kit to review, my boyfriend's mum very kindly bought it for me {shout out to Jane!}, but I would have spent my own money on it otherwise. No compensation or anything given!)

PP13 Roses and Pearls Pincushion Kit (pink). I requested that the pincushion base be removed, since I knew I couldn't bear to use it as a pincushion, and Lorna kindly removed the cost from the price of mine. It's listed as for beginners of silk embroidery, and I think that's fair, but I think if you were a total beginner in all embroidery you'd have a harder time with it.

  • Two cards of 5 metres of silk ribbon (pink and green)
  • Full instructions, a diagram of the design, diagrams of the stitches used
  • Square of linen with the design printed onto it
  • Square of cotton backing
  • Five needles of various types
  • Matching standard embroidery floss (for preparing the roses)
  • Photograph of the finished item
The kit does not include the hoop it is worked on.

First and foremost, it's totally beautiful! I love the results, I'm so pleased. Even though I can obviously see the mistakes I've made, I'm very happy with how it turned out overall. I also love that she includes all of the needles needed in the kit, even the standard embroidery needle. It wasn't too difficult, and there are only a few stitches used, but it gives a very effective result and looks like it was a lot more difficult than it was! It was a very fun project, and I feel like I've dipped my toes into ribbon embroidery without having to figure out all of the supplies and designs for myself. 

The first downside I can think of is the price. It isn't exorbitant (especially without the pincushion base), and as someone who sells embroidery myself I understand the artistry and effort that has gone into making these kits. I also know ribbon embroidery can be expensive, as you need to use pure silk. All that being said, for a beginner, it still seems like quite a bit to pay for a finished item that's so small. The other small issue is that while you have quite a bit of the green ribbon left over, you really do use every scrap of the pink ribbon. If you mess up a rose or a bud, you can't snip it off and try again. I was warned of this when I bought this (Lorna specified that I should practice roses with the green before I tried with the pink; I did not do this at all because I am me.), but if you're not buying it in person it isn't made that clear. So, fair warning!

What do you think of my first attempt at ribbon embroidery? Do you think you'd like to give it a try?

Friday, 20 February 2015

Favourite apps (for Mac)

As you might have expected, I spend a a fair amount of time on my computer. Seeing as I probably spend more time looking at the screen than other people (I live alone! don't judge!), I also am always on the lookout for useful apps to optimise my Mac. These might not be the most exciting choices, but I think good functionality is exciting, darn it! (As an aside, can you believe I had to order an external disc drive yesterday!? I haven't used a disc for anything in years, and had all but forgotten that MacBook Airs don't come with one!)
  • Caffeine is a teeny-tiny app that prevents your computer from going to sleep when it's activated, and the little icon in the menu bar is a coffee cup! When the cup is full, the computer won't go to sleep. So useful for when you're looking at a recipe while cooking and don't want to get your floury hands all over the computer.
  • Cinch. I LOVE Cinch. It replicates a process that is one of the only things I miss about Windows -- when you drag a window to a 'hot zone' of the screen, it resizes it to fit. It means I can easily split the screen between two windows just by dragging one to the left and one to the right, which is incredibly helpful when I'm doing manuscript transcriptions...or playing a flash game while watching a TV show. 
  • MailTab for Gmail. An envelope icon in your task bar that goes red and alerts you when you get an email. So simple, so useful. 
  • Doomi. Another little app (I seem to have a type), Doomi is a small, simple to-do list. It's absolutely tiny, so easy to use, and doesn't require you to sign into anything. You just type your to-do and press enter.
  • Calibre is a godsend when it comes to managing my ebooks. I'm a big fan of reading, and an even bigger fan of cheaper books and easier transportation. Calibre is a free app that can convert pretty much any ebook format into any other format, which means no matter what device you have it can output files that you can load onto it. I use this pretty frequently to turn PDFs into MOBIs that I can put on my Kindle. Love it. And on that note...
  • Kindle. I do have a Kindle, but I like the ability to read on my computer, too, and being able to switch back and forth between my Kindle and the app (and having it know where I am in the book!) is super useful.
  • Flux. An app that changes the colours on your computer screen based on the time of day it is - in the day, the colours are unaffected, but at night they're dimmed and made warmer, which apparently can help fight sleep problems caused by late-night screen exposure. Not the best for graphic design, but it can easily be disabled!
  • Memory Clean is a small tool that does what it says on the tin, really. With one click of a button it cleans up any excessive memory use, the file cache, temporary files, app memory requirements, etc. I found it made a big difference in speed on my own computer, but now that I'm using a laptop with a SSD it's less of a dramatic effect. Still, always good to have as clean of a computer as possible!
What are your favourite apps? Ps, my awesome avocado desktop is from Designlovefest.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Read, Reading, Want to Read {4}

Annihilation (Southern Reach, #1) by Jeff VanderMeer | 5/5
I absolutely loved this book. Such an enthralling and eerie story told in both a deeply personal and a strangely detached voice from our narrator, the unnamed Biologist. I won't go too much into the plot here, because it really works best if you read it on your own. It gives you just enough information to keep you interested, but never enough to answer all your questions. I read all of this in just a few days; I couldn't put it down! Funnily enough, too, something in this book is very similar to a creepy dream I had a few months ago, so reading that really resonated with me. I also love the cover designs of these books! I know they say not to judge a book by its cover, but I am, and it's good.
Authority (Southern Reach, #2) by Jeff VanderMeer | 3/5
The second book in the Southern Reach series I found to be a big disappointment, unfortunately. The first one was so good and so interesting, and then going back to the perspective of someone in the 'real world' dealing with fairly mundane problems was just a bit of a let down. It also gave me the sense that the third book would not actually resolve all of the questions they had created, which is why I haven't read it yet. I did appreciate the new information we got about Area X in this one, and the descriptions of the wildlife and the area gave the whole book a very authentic, 'muggy' feeling. It just didn't leave me champing at the bit for the next one, despite the cliffhanger.
 The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber | 4/5
I loved a lot of this book. I loved the premise -- a shadowy, massive corporation recruits a Christian pastor from earth to act as a 'missionary' to the native population of an alien planet. I loved the planet, and the native population of it, and as a linguist I especially loved the unique way they represented the Oasans' speech. I did find the main narrative a bit repetitive and droning at times, which, while it did contribute to the atmosphere of the book, still had me looking forward to the increasingly negative and almost 'apocalyptic' letters sent from his wife back on earth, Bea. I didn't find the main character terribly likeable though, and I found some of the ways he thought about his fellow workers jarring and unpleasant. I still really enjoyed this book, and want to read more Michel Faber.
The Clan of the Cave Bear; The Valley of Horses; The Mammoth Hunters; The Plains of Passage by Jean M. Auel | 4-5/5
So, here's the thing. I haven't talked about these books on here even though I've been re-reading them through all of last year, just because they are so goofy. But I honestly love them so much, and desperately want to talk about them with other people who have read them. The series follows the life of Ayla, an early homo sapiens woman, born around 30,000 years ago. She grows up with the Clan of the Cave Bear (hey! it's the title!), who we know as Neanderthals, but is forced to leave when she is a young teenager to live on her own and eventually meet up with the Others, her own people. My favourite thing about these books is how Ayla is consistently inventing new things and impressive everyone around her -- I think some people would probably find them quite annoying and repetitive, because they are all about 500-600 pages long, but for some reason I can't get enough of descriptions of cooking, wildlife, and Ayla inventing pretty much everything, including the domestication of animals and needles. They're just so fun.

The Shelters of Stone by Jean M. Auel
The Shelters of Stone opens as Ayla and Jondalar, along with their animal friends, Wolf, Whinney, and Racer, complete their epic journey across Europe and are greeted by Jondalar’s people: the Zelandonii. The people of the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii fascinate Ayla. Their clothes, customs, artifacts, even their homes—formed in great cliffs of vertical limestone—are a source of wonder to her. But as Ayla and Jondalar prepare for the formal mating at the Summer Meeting, there are difficulties. Not all the Zelandonii are welcoming. Some fear Ayla’s unfamiliar ways and abhor her relationship with those they call flatheads and she calls Clan. Some even oppose her mating with Jondalar, and make their displeasure known. Ayla has to call on all her skills, intelligence, knowledge, and instincts to find her way in this complicated society.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
In 2019, humanity finally finds proof of extraterrestrial life when a listening post in Puerto Rico picks up exquisite singing from a planet which will come to be known as Rakhat. While United Nations diplomats endlessly debate a possible first contact mission, the Society of Jesus quietly organizes an eight-person scientific expedition of its own. What the Jesuits find is a world so beyond comprehension that it will lead them to question the meaning of being "human." Words like "provocative" and "compelling" will come to mind as you read this shocking novel about first contact with a race that creates music akin to both poetry and prayer.
Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan
Two thousand years ago, an itinerant Jewish preacher and miracle worker walked across the Galilee, gathering followers to establish what he called the “Kingdom of God.” The revolutionary movement he launched was so threatening to the established order that he was captured, tortured, and executed as a state criminal. 
Within decades after his shameful death, his followers would call him God.
The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel
In The land of Painted Caves, Jean M. Auel brings the ice-age epic Earth's Children series to an extraordinary conclusion. Ayla, one of the most remarkable and beloved heroines in contemporary fiction, continues to explore the world and the people around her with curiosity, insight, and above all, courage. [This is the only one I won't just be re-reading, so I'm pretty excited for it!]

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Five independent jewellery picks

Naturally with all the excitement of my big announcement, I've had jewellery on the brain. Here are my favourite pieces from five fab independent jewellery designers. From top left:

  1. Pegasus Locket Necklace, from BonbiForest. This Pegasus locket is made from an original illustration by the shop owner. I think the gold is so striking on the black, and the illustration is just too sweet. This shop has loads more lovely lockets like this, as well as printed scarves and another apparel. It's based in the UK, too! I don't know if I would necessarily wear this one but how pretty would it be in a little bedside table display?
  2. Laurel Wreath necklace- Brass, from AlmanacForJune. I'm absolutely obsessed with this shop's mythology/astronomy inspired jewellery, but if I was pressed I'd have to go with the wreath necklace as my favourite. I love the textured look of the leaves; you can tell by the detail that this was cast from a hand-carved original. Gorgeous.
  3. Hart & Hunt Necklace, from Datter Industries. This striking necklace is perhaps a bit morbid, but it's so unique and interesting that I'd wear it in a heartbeat. (Hmm.) This shop makes really interesting, unique and well-made pieces, and I highly recommend you browse their other products. They even have their own laurel-inspired design!
  4. Rose quartz bracelet, from TinyMountainsDesigns. This shop is the first time I've ever seen a bracelet quite like this. I love the naturalistic look you get with the raw quartz, and the idea to secure those little hills (tiny mountains?) onto flat bezel bases like that is fantastic.
  5. Tiny bee necklace, from bellehibou. This image doesn't do the scale of this tiny necklace justice. So little! I think jewellery like this is so delicate and feminine, and can be worn as an everyday piece. The hexagonal charm is a clever addition to the classic bee necklace. 
What do you think of my choices? Do you have any favourite independent jewellery makers? I have so many more, I'll have to do a part two!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

A very exciting announcement!

After months of thinking about it, gathering the right supplies, making things, etc... I can finally 'announce' that I've started selling jewellery!

I'm starting out with just one piece (dipping my toes in, as it were), this rhinestone pendant I'm calling The Sun. It's about one inch in diameter, and comes on either a short velvet choker-length ribbon, or a long gold-plated chain. I honestly think it's a lovely design and I'm so happy with how they came out! I hope they sell, so I have an excuse to have more fun with jewellery :)

They're for sale here on my Etsy.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Only Skin

The first 'real' embroidery I ever did was just the words 'only skin', a reference to the Joanna Newsom song of the same title. So it's appropriate that I return to the song every few years as my technique improves. Or...I just think about that song a lot. I find it very inspiring; like most Joanna Newsom songs the lyrics are incredibly poetic and they lend themselves to artistic interpretation. The lyric in particular I was thinking of when I made this was 'scrape your knee, it is only skin', and I represented the skinned knees with tiny pearl beads. I think I really like bead embroidery; I find it relaxing. I need to find more projects to use beads in!

If you've never heard the song, grab a cup of tea and settle in for a listen. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

My Capsule Wardrobe

Capsule wardrobes. The pared-down ideal everyone's been talking about for the last few years, so few of whom are able to actually reach those lofty heights of actually liking all of your clothes. I am definitely one of those people who looks in my closet, clothes rack visibly dipping down in the middle from the weight, and say 'I don't have anything to wear!' This is a lie of course. I have plenty of things to wear. The problem is I either don't like it, or it doesn't fit well, or it's uncomfortable, or it's not my style at all but I'm very sentimental about it, or I like it but it isn't flattering, etc, etc. So for 2015 I'm finally dealing with it. I'm going to stop buying cheap trendy clothes I don't need, and I'm building a capsule wardrobe.

For those who are unaware, a capsule wardrobe is (taken from here):
  1. a collection of clothes and accessories that includes only items considered essential
  2. a person’s basic collection of coordinating clothes that can be used to form the basis of outfits for all occasions
  3. a set of clothing, normally around 24 items, which can be mixed and matched to create a wide variety of outfits.
Get it? No futzing around deciding what to wear in the morning, and always looking stylish? I'm into it! Now this collection I've made isn't 24 items - it's 30, including some things that I already own. Some people use 33 as a guideline, and change their wardrobe season to season. Living in Scotland, I don't think I'll be doing that - the only difference between Winter, Fall, and Spring is how many laters of outerwear I wear, and for the few days in summer it's warm enough my jean shorts will do fine. I'm not a 'summer dresser' anyway. I also haven't included coats (already own all I'll need) or occasion dresses (very rarely relevant). So now that that's all out of the way, a list of my capsule wardrobe picks:

1. Checked shirt
2. White shirt
3. Striped breton top ✓
4. Black tee ✓
5. Grey turtleneck
6. Black camisole
7. Black bodysuit (for layering under jeans and trousers)

1. Black shorts ✓
2. Camel skirt (had one, loved it, gained too much weight, no longer fit :( )
3. Short black skirt ✓
4. Black midi skirt ✓
5. Blue high-waisted jeans ✓ (sans ripped knees, which wasn't on Polyvore)
6. Black high-waisted jeans 
7. Trousers with a pattern

1. Striped tunic ✓
2. Chambray shirt dress 
3. Cream sweater dress

1. Tartan/red gilet
2. Black blazer ✓

1. Black heels ✓
2. Black chelsea boots ✓
3. Black flats ✓ (although they're fairly worn out)
4. Red loafers
5. Brown ankle boots

1. Black scarf
2. Tartan scarf
3. Daniel Wellington watch
4. Pearl necklace
5. Pearl earrings
6. Any crystal statement necklace ✓

Am I immediately going to go out and buy everything I don't have? No. Am I going to throw away everything that isn't on this list? Of course not. I will never give up my massive scarf+gloves+hats collection. Never! What I will be doing though is slowly paring down my wardrobe, donating things I don't wear -- and hopefully this list will make it easier for me to do that. I'll also not be buying any clothing or accessories that don't fall under this list, to stop myself from making impulse purchases I can't afford.

What do you think about my list? Am I missing anything glaringly obvious? Do you subscribe to the capsule wardrobe concept? Let me know!